When I was in 4th grade I remember my teacher asking me to do her a favor. She asked me to go to another 4th grade teacher's room and ask him something. (I clearly don't remember what that something was.) But why ask me? Probably the quietest kid in the class. I know she really liked me, but- why me?
I remember leaving the room for my "quest" and standing in the middle of the hallway, petrified. My mind drew a complete blank, almost as if I was unable to form words.. even in my head. I turned around and went BACK to my classroom. I remember approaching my teacher and saying "Wait, what do I say?" I wanted her to put words in my mouth. I wanted her to give me a line (almost like a script) of what I needed to ask him. Even if it was just to say 5 words.
I needed the confidence of what I was going to say before I was going to say it.
So here is what I've learned about myself:
I am a very social person, who is socially anxious, who has little confidence socially, who hates social situations, who loves talking to people, and loves people in general.
Wait What ?
Trying to figure myself out is like walking through the world's biggest corn maze.
I had been diagnosed last September with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, with many of my symptoms relating to Social Anxiety Disorder.
It was then where I had to understand that social anxiety and "shyness" are completely different things. I am not shy. I am very personable, in fact. When I'm not anxious :-)
I have also learned that I am extremely confident socially when I am familiar, interested and engaged in the conversation. Recently, I was at the kitchen table with John's sister and his mother discussing the social work career. Boy was I talking. Something that I am passionate about, and I even amazed my mom from the other room with how I held the entire conversation- eye contact and all.
Discussing stigma, mental health awareness, issues in society...Now that's where I can spend a conversation. (Reasons why I will probably kickass in my college classes) Things that matter to me, and that I am knowledgable in of course.
But try small talk with me or ask me questions I am not prepared for (even simple ones) and you can find me relating to the socially awkward penguin memes ..
So this is what confuses me:
I have no issue walking into a store at Hampton Beach and asking a complete stranger behind the counter if any places on the boardwalk did body piercings,
today I was panicking (in real tears) over the fact that I would have to check-in by myself at my dentist appointment. My mom had to come in my room, first ask me what was wrong, and then say "Haley, all you need to say is "I'm here; Haley" and they will say okay thank you."
What I have pieced together is.. in many ways it has nothing to do with my social skills. It is not shyness, or social anxiety.
It is a lack of confidence, and a fear of making mistakes.
Speaking out loud is not my problem, it is being confident enough with what I am saying.
Remember that quote I frequently use? "I write better than I talk."
When I am speaking or being asked direct questions that require a little thought, my brain freezes up. It feels like a boulder is on me and I just feel very very heavy. My cheeks could be drooping down to my shoulders. My mind is thinking about what to say, without even thinking at all.
I am not very good with a quick response, most of the time. I like to take my time and make sure I am presenting my thoughts accurately through my words. When I struggle to do so, I am very hard on myself.
Tonight, I was reminded that we all have a different process. We all have a different way of doing things, strengths and weaknesses, how our brain functions, and we all have things we wish we could change about ourselves.
Tonight, I needed it to be drilled into my head; A reminder of the real me.
I needed a reminder that I am a person who puts a lot of pressure on myself, and who sometimes needs a little time to process things. However, I am a person that proves that once I do reach that process, my words are more than meaningful and understood.
To become strong mentally there are a lot of things you need to gain, and a lot of things you need to let go.
I have challenged myself to separate my feelings from my self worth.
Now, I need to work on acceptance. I need to accept who/how I am, even the things that may frustrate or embarrass me. If I am learning self care, self respect, and self love, I must accept my flaws.
I may struggle to present myself at times. I may struggle to put my feelings into words, and I may struggle to put descriptions to my feelings.
But I have writing; my tool to process everything that runs through this head of mine, word by word.
And I have my jumpy mind that is always filled with thoughts, and my skill to focus so much time on a thought, where I am bound to discover every aspect of it at some point.
Everybody is different, we all have something.
If any of you can relate to "beating yourself up" I challenge you to take the challenge of acceptance and perspective with me.
Good things can come from our flaws, and sometimes it is our flaws that hold the talent within us.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.